Enjoying Alcohol Responsibly: Advice for older people

Older people drink alcohol for the same reasons as younger people: Relaxation, Celebration, & Enjoyment. However, as we grow older, we may face different risks, and we may need to learn new patterns of sensible drinking. This is because our bodies work less efficiently in later life, and alcohol will probably affect us differently and more quickly. In particular, older people’s livers and kidneys can tend to function more slowly e.g. at filtering alcohol from the bloodstream, so alcohol may affect the brain and liver for longer.



Sensible limits:

Men and Women:

No more than 2-3 units a day, and no more than 14 units a week.
Everyone needs at least 3 days a week without alcohol.
Older people may need 4 days per week.






Ways that alcohol might affect you:

  • Alcohol can aggravate various other health problems that affect older people: e.g. high blood pressure, digestion, circulation.
  • Alcohol may contribute to confusion and short-term memory loss. This can lead to hazards such as leaving the gas on, forgetting to lock the door, or having a fall.
  • Alcohol may increase the risk of accidents or falls, especially if someone is frail or unsteady. Alcohol can increase the likelihood of incontinence, needing the toilet more often, or just forgetting to go in time.
  • Alcohol slows reactions and can make people feel depressed, or become aggressive or morose. This is because alcohol affects our self-control, so we sometimes show how we are feeling in a more extreme way than when we are not affected by drinking.
  • There is very little food value in alcoholic drinks and people who drink instead of eating may suffer from malnutrition. It is very important to eat enough nourishing food.
  • Bad habits with alcohol may lead to an increase in financial problems, especially if money is already a struggle.
  • Alcohol does not warm the body, it cools it down. This means that people who feel cold should not drink alcohol, and no-one suffering from hypothermia should ever be given it.
  • Medication should not be mixed with alcohol. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to drink alcohol with any medicine you are taking.


For more information and advice download our leaflet here  Download PDF File



About the Author



E: jbayes@cornwall.gov.uk

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